STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

IG REPORT OUTLINES DPH DRUG LAB MANAGEMENT FAILURES

Annie Dookhan was the "sole bad actor" at the Hinton State Lab but management failures under former Department of Health Commissioner John Auerbach contributed to her acts of malfeasance, according to a 129-page report released Tuesday following a 15-month review of the lab's operations by the state inspector general's office. IG Glenn Cunha's report found management failures of state lab directors contributed to Dookhan's ability to tamper with drug samples. "The directors were ill-suited to oversee a forensic drug lab, provided almost no supervision, were habitually unresponsive to chemists' complaints and suspicions, and severely downplayed Dookhan's major breach in chain-of-custody protocol upon discovering it," the report said. The report described the training of chemists at the lab as "wholly inadequate," said the lab failed to "uniformly and consistently" use a valid statistical approach to estimate the weight of drugs in certain trafficking cases, and lacked formal and uniform protocols to govern basic operations such as training, chain of custody and testing methods. The IG's review of the lab was conducted at Gov. Deval Patrick's request. Citing the lab's failure to provide potentially exculpatory evidence to parties in criminal cases by not disclosing information about "additional, inconsistent testing results," Cunha's office is retesting 2,000 drug samples to determine whether results provided to prosecutors and defendants were accurate. - M. Norton/SHNS

TRANSPORTATION BILL'S PRICETAG RISES TO $13.15 BILLION

A five-year, $1.5 billion commitment to the Chapter 90 road repair program, increased fines for MBTA fare evasion, and property transfers for the Conley Terminal freight corridor in South Boston are included in a $13.15 billion transportation bond bill recommended Tuesday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill represents the Senate's latest version of the $12.8 billion, five-year bond bill unanimously approved by the House in late January. The bill (S 2023) was introduced during a brief session Tuesday. Senators adopted an order requiring amendments to the bill to be filed by 3 p.m. Wednesday, with the legislation marked for floor debate on Thursday afternoon. The Ways and Means bill also increases the bond limit for the Wood's Hole, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Steamship Authority from $75 million to $100 million, designates the Governor Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center at South Station, and creates a redevelopment program for Quincy Center Station, according to a bill summary. The bill also includes $2.3 billion for the South Coast rail project, $1.3 billion for the Green Line extension, $325 million for South Station improvements, and $175 million for the Springfield-Worcester, Boston-Cape Cod, and Pittsfield-New York City rail projects. - M. Norton/SHNS

WHITE OAKS HARVESTED IN INDIANA FOR REPAIRS TO OLD IRONSIDES

Navy foresters have begun harvesting mature white oak trees in Indiana as they prepare for the next repairs to the USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat, at the Charlestown Navy Yard. According to the Navy, the ship's next dry docking repair availability is planned for 2014 through 2018, and will involve replacing deteriorated 40-foot-long hull planking and supporting structures, called knees, with the same kind of wood used to build the ship in 1797. The oaks are being harvested from Crane's forest in Indiana. The Navy estimates around 12 percent of Constitution's wood is original, including the keel, the bottom frames and the bottom 13 planks of the hull. A grove of trees at Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest's Public Works Department Crane was officially named "Constitution Grove" on May 8, 1976, during the U.S. Bicentennial. "We're very proud to be part of this," Commander James Stewart, commanding office of NSA Crane, said in a statement. "This ship is such a big deal, such an important part of the Navy's heritage, and Crane is very proud to have this tie to Constitution." Old Ironsides underwent major repairs in 1991. - M. Norton/SHNS

LAWYERS DESCRIBE IRELAND AS A LIKEABLE, BALANCED JUDGE

Years before he became the Suffolk County district attorney, Dan Conley was in Boston Juvenile Court going toe to toe with a public defender before Judge Roderick Ireland. "We were going at it pretty good," said Conley, who said the 1980s were a time when lawyers could wage legal battle in court and be friends outside. Ireland, who is now the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and planning to retire in July, called the lawyers to the bench and told them, "When this case is tried, we're going to sell tickets," Conley recalled to the News Service. He said, "I think he appreciated our advocacy." Conley's adversary in that case was Paul McGill, who became a judge in 1990. Terrence Kennedy, a member of the eight-person elected Governor's Council that will vet the next chief justice, said he also remembers appearing before Ireland in the Juvenile Court. "He was a great judge. He had a great demeanor," Kennedy told the News Service. He said, "He certainly always knew more about the law than anyone in that room." Kennedy said Ireland was "courageous" in joining the majority in the 2004 decision legalizing gay marriage, and said "certainly has to look at the diversity aspect of it" when replacing Ireland, the first and only African-American SJC justice. Conley described Ireland as a "practical moderate" and said he hoped Patrick would nominate someone with a similar approach. "His rulings as an appellate judge are measured and balanced," Conley said. He said, ""He understands that these rulings aren't - or they should not be - sort of delivered from an Ivory tower." - A. Metzger/SHNS

LOGAN INTERNATIONAL TERMINALS IN FOR $100 MIL UPGRADE

Logan Airport's international terminals will undergo a two-year, $100 million renovation beginning in July, according a plan announced Tuesday by Gov. Deval Patrick. The improvements will focus on a new post-security connector between Terminals E and C, upgrades to holding rooms and concessions, the installation of self-service kiosks to expedite passport processing for international travelers and renovations to accommodate expanded international air service. "Boston Logan is the region's gateway to the global economy,'' said Thomas Glynn, CEO of Massport, in a statement. "We have had success, but we must continue to develop new routes, make Terminal E welcoming to the global citizens who pass through it everyday, and make certain the airport continues to be the region's efficient economic engine.'' The project will be funded through Massport's capital program. Logan currently serves 36 foreign markets with non-stop service, including the recent addition of flights to Dublin, Madrid, Toronto, the Dominican Republic, Tokyo, Panama City, Istanbul, Dubai and Beijing. - M. Murphy/SHNS

BIZ CONFIDENCE LAGGING BEHIND ECONOMIC GROWTH

Business confidence in Massachusetts remains about where it was a year ago, stuck in neutral. Associated Industries of Massachusetts on Tuesday released its January confidence index reading. The score of 50 on a 100-point scale was down less than 1 point from December and AIM analysts said employers still lack the confidence needed to fuel significant hiring. "We noted in our December report that 2013 had been a 'lost year' in terms of business confidence, and we are not seeing any progress in the first months of 2014," Raymond Torto, global chairman of research at CBRE and chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors, said in a statement. "The Index's reading is only a point above where it was a year ago, and about at its level of mid-2011, despite substantial improvement in objective economic conditions over that time. It's a telling indication of the long-term damage inflicted on employer sentiment by the Great Recession." Twenty-six percent of employers who responded to AIM's survey said they expect to add personnel in the next six months, while 15 percent foresee staff reductions. AIM President Richard Lord described business confidence in Massachusetts as at a "standstill." - M. Norton/SHNS